The Wall Street Journal highlights that France’s universal healthcare system is broke:

France Fights Universal Care’s High Cost
Here’s the brief version of the problem:

French taxpayers fund a state health insurer, Assurance Maladie, proportionally to their income, and patients get treatment even if they can’t pay for it. France spends 11% of national output on health services, compared with 17% in the U.S., and routinely outranks the U.S. in infant mortality and some other health measures.

The problem is that Assurance Maladie has been in the red since 1989. This year the annual shortfall is expected to reach €9.4 billion ($13.5 billion), and €15 billion in 2010, or roughly 10% of its budget.

It’s a near-monopoly, where the low amounts paid to doctors per visit ($32 at the office, $38 for house calls) essentially guarantee a permanent shortage of general practitioners.

France enjoys a reputation of “excellent government-provided healthcare”. Regular readers of my blog know that reputation is not justified. For instance, last January 14 French Minister for Health Roselyne Bachelot confirmed that 10,000 people die every year of “medical accidents”, and there are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 “serious undesirable events” i.e., errors per year.

France’s system is plagued with long-term problems. During a heat wave six years ago 15,000 elderly and frail people died, since the country’s poorly-prepared hospitals meant those patients never stood a chance. Many of them died of dehydration in the emergency rooms waiting for an IV.

Three years later, the country was still not prepared for a similar heat wave.

Would you call that top notch service?